Point Molate (Richmond)
The Point Molate Community Advisory Committee (PMCAC) held two public meetings in two weeks in May, 2016, to discuss running some or all of the area under a nonprofit framework. The PMCAC and the Point Molate Working Group work hard to advise the City of Richmond on the best long-term use of this remarkable shoreline area. On May 18 the PMCAC unanimously passed a motion to recommend to the City that it work out land use designation before it sets up a land trust organization. That would allow for completing smaller specific plans, such as for a large park area complete with operating funds. It is possible that in waiting for a more elaborate scheme, ecological goals would get lost. A full economic plan may remain under contention for years to come. But progress has been made in drawing open space boundary protections and managing short term revenue plans and they are currently hanging in the balance. Most important to the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (EBCNPS) is the establishment of flora protection to the area above the beach park, all the way from the hilltop down the hillside, and to the coastal prairie bunchgrass areas through to the eelgrass beds in the bay. All this is located southeast of the historic brick Winehaven building. Locally invested environmental group representatives, including me as conservation analyst for EBCNPS, are carefully crafting a policy statement that stays focused on protecting these resources even as discussions continue on how to use the land around it. We also want to see the land above the beach park open for public enjoyment.

Note: you can visit the Point Molate Beach Park on Stenmark Drive.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline (San Pablo)
East Bay Regional Parks District held an update meeting regarding the proposed visitors’ center at this shoreline park property. On May 6, Conservation Chair Jean Robertson and longtime conservation committee member David Bigham contributed feedback which reminded the Park District that we want to see protection of coastal prairie treated as a top priority in deciding all aspects of the placement of the center, including parking lot and access road location and construction phase impacts. Coastal prairie has been reduced to 1% of its original range and no existing examples are expendable. Point Pinole has some of the best remaining stands in our chapter area.

We insisted that grassland resources be more accurately delineated on their maps in order to properly assess the best placement for this huge construction. Several of the proposed locations of the visitors’ center are on the coastal prairie! Any siting options that further damage, destroy, or fragment the little remaining high quality prairie would be completely counterproductive. Also, we want restoration of degraded sections of the prairie to be part of the District’s visitors’ center/interpretive center construction project effort. Can we restore degraded areas, create a model for learning more about our coastal prairie grasslands, practice effective stewardship, and build the proposed visitors’ center?

We have successfully collaborated with the Parks District on past requests to examine methods of weed control including prescribed burns. Mitigating impacts from an unfortunate construction-related soil pile placed on intact coastal prairie grassland was a concern back in 2012, and that issue is still unresolved. Staff is taking the opportunity to reevaluate grassland resources at the park after this month’s meeting. The construction date is still to be determined, and the Park District will continue to accept feedback at public meetings as well as on an upcoming public tour to look at siting possibilities.
New Open Space Policy by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) (Contra Costa County)
I attended the Contra Costa Watershed Forum meeting on May 11 with former chapter president Lesley Hunt. The meeting featured a presentation on LAFCO’s new proposed language in an Agricultural and Open Space Preservation Policy. LAFCO is a state agency that functions at the county level to manage applications for and make recommendations on city incorporation, land use changes, and urban boundaries. This new policy is meant to guide developer applicants on how to assess impacts of their development proposals. It will mandate more detailed mitigation plans and help LAFCO value the lands and evaluate the impacts of a development on agriculture and open space.

Topics discussed included the importance of minimizing conversion of agricultural land and open space, the California state law definition of agricultural land, and the value of such land as watershed contributors. From our organization’s perspective, we support the language they want to incorporate. Not all land is created equal. We must analyze the way that demands from an increasing population will continue to exert pressure for land use conversions in the popular San Francisco Bay Area. We hope this policy is one step of many towards containing urban sprawl. Requiring developers to consider how they plan to mitigate for loss of resources such as alkaline and sandy soils in the East Bay that supprt rare plant life can only lead to improvement. Letters of public comment are due by June 20.

Oak Knoll (Oakland)
EBCNPS Conservation Chair Jean Robertson and I hiked Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve this month in search of the Oakland star tulip (Calochortus umbellatus), which we found along hilltops despite some invasive weed pressures. We also walked around some of the future Oak Knoll proposed development footprint, which has been more than ten years in planning. This old Naval Hospital and base remains fragmented from leftover parking lots and roads even though most buildings were removed years ago. All trees were tagged with round metal markers as though recently surveyed and counted. This development is moving forward with a public update meeting that just occurred, also attended by pivotal local organizations such as the Oak Knoll Coalition. We will advocate for protecting the large oak trees, the significant patches of purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) grassland, and the Oakland star tulip locations. Rifle Range Creek flows into Lake Chabot and runs in all seasons. It is a gem on the western side of the property that requires protection. Although much of this property will be developed, the knoll is to be preserved. We are confident that we join a cadre of partners who care about preserving this piece of open space, as they have a history of advocating for protecting the knoll during earlier iterations of the plan.

Unusual Plants Database
Since the debut in March 2016 of the Unusual Plants Database, we have begun contacting potentially interested parties around the Bay Area to introduce them to our resource. Please remind yourself of the great value this database presents to our chapter and our counties, and spread the word. (Don’t forget to sign up for an account!) Click on the following link
http://ebcnps.org/user-agreement/ to request access to the database.

For more information about the Conservation Committee’s work, or to join us, contact: Karen Whitestone: conservation@ebcnps.org
Karen Whitestone